Synchrony in metacommunities

A new year, a new publication, this time with Shubha and Jurek: “Population synchrony decreases with richness and increases with environmental fluctuations in an experimental metacommunity” in Oecologia. We continued our work with specialization in metacommunities, but this time looked at the implications on population synchrony. Key figure: We found, as predicted, that: the synchrony between populations of a specialist species within a metacommunity is more influenced by environmental fluctuations compared to a generalist speciesthat increasing species richness decreased individual population synchronyWhile these results make perfect sense from an ecological point of view, getting this paper published was not so straightforward because of the unbalanced experimental design we had to use.

Colonization rates and species richness

Our first publication from the amazing spanish pond system set-up by Andy Green and his group, but especially with the hard work of Dagmar Frisch, who has the patience of a saint to keep collaborating with me: “Strong Spatial Influence on Colonization Rates in a Pioneer Zooplankton Metacommunity” in Plos One. Each published article is unique in its calvary to publication. Most often, this is not visible to the reader, although sometimes you can tell that certain parts in the manuscript are clearly added on to satisfy a reviewer’s pet peeve.

Science and uncertainty

I just started teaching Community Ecology with Tom Nudds again, and one of the main themes of this course is exposing students to the importance of uncertainty in science (or Science, if you want). Today anotherinsightful article by John Timmer in Ars Technica appeared, and provides a real-life example of this uncertainty. It tells the story of Peter Duesburg, a scientist with an impressive academic history: “He did pioneering work in the characterization of retroviruses (viruses that are transmitted using RNA as a genetic material, but then copied into DNA and inserted into their hosts’ genome), helping to show that they could pick up genes from their host that enabled them to induce cancer.

Marina featured in the At Guelph

Marina's Vanier Award

It is finally official, Marina’s Vanier Award has been made public, and I can finally boast about it. 1 out of the top 167 PhD students across natural, social, and medical sciences at the Canadian level is very impressive. Congratulations, Marina.

Google Scholar profile

Nature has a news article on 2 free alternatives to Web of Science, including your personal citation library. Another example of serendipity, because I created one a couple of days before the nature publication, and planned to wanted to dedicate a short blog to it, i.e., this one.  You can access mine here: Below is a 2011 snapshot picture:For reference, here is screen capture of the “official” Web of Science summary:Very similar, if you ask me, although the Google Scholar obviously includes more items.

Showcase of Let's Talk Microbes

Last November, Marina and Amanda went to Kobe’s school to givea hands-on demonstration of microbes. The science teacher who invited them then nominated their activity to the Let’s Talk Science CIHR-Synapse award, a national competition. And they were selected as one of the 4 best showcase activities! And in the accompanying picture, you can see Amanda, Marina in the background, and my son Kobe with the spiderman sweater. How cool is all that?

Polar bears gone wild.

Doing research in Churchill is not without its perils: sleep deprivation, bugs, road rage, and polar bears. Brittany said it was a slow season so far, but not every bear read the memo: see this CBC article on a polar bear gone wild.  All joking aside, sadly enough when wildlife goes wild, the consequences for the animal in question are much more severe than an embarrassing Youtube video. From the original CBC article: notice the person behind the rock, a little to the left of the hind legs!

Link between improvement of the environment and society?

While I am aware of my tendency to discount anything older as 10 years as ancient in science terms, I do try to sketch a brief historical of each issue I discuss in (most of) my research articles. However, I am always surprised by the lack of “history” in quality reporting on scientific progress. A recent story in Nature, “Can conservation cut poverty”, investigated the link between preserving biodiversity and positive influences this might have on the local inhabitants.

Soap box

Sometimes I like it when Margaret Wente gets on her soap box. She has a couple of recurring themes, and our university education system is one she uses every couple of months.Here is her latest, and I will have to do some counting on the issues she brings up, and comparing them to my own, personal, experiences: “ A large number of students learn little or nothing in university. More than a third show no improvement in their skills at all.